Authenticity and Enchantment – Part 1

Living in the modern world can sometimes feel too real.  Many of us long for simpler times in our own lives when we believed in magic, fairy tales, and other enchanted things.   In this post, we discuss the link between enchantment and authenticity, and where you might find some enchanting and ultimately renewing- experiences while travelling.

Children aren’t the only ones who need enchantment. Photo by Author

In an earlier post, I talked about the  philosophical aspect of authenticity.  One philosopher cited (Charles Taylor) has spoken at length of the value of enchantment in an authentic life.  To support all those seeking enchantment in their travel experiences, read on for five enchanting places and events that authentic travelers may wish to experience.

Five Enchanting Places and Events -Winter to Early Spring

1. Northern Lights

Who wouldn’t feel a sense of awe and wonder when gazing at this eerie natural display.  Places to view the Northern Lights include Norway,

Photo from Visit Norway website

Finland (just outside of Inari seems to be the most reliable), and of course, in Canada:  Yukon Territory  and  the Northwest Territories .

Northern lights in the Yukon. Photo from Tourism Yukon website

2. Outdoor Evening Events in Winter

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you have to spend your nights indoors.  Many cities program their public parks to make them friendly and inviting for citizens to spend evenings there in Fall and Winter as well.  New York City’s Bryant Park, with its  Winter Village  is one of these destinations.  Vancouver hosts an annual Christmas Market, and for 2016 the market included a lighted outdoor maze . Selected other cities offering outdoor evening events include: London, England, which just opened up a new outdoor ice rink that is lit in the dark,  Luminosity ; and the  Christmas Market on the Champs Elysees in Paris .  While these are commercial events, you can still enjoy the friendly crowd ambience in most of these by walking around, without actually spending money.

3. Spooky, but spiritual music in the dark

On Sunday nights from January through November, if you are in Vancouver at 9:30pm and like your enchantment to have a musical dimension, check out the Compline Service at the downtown Christ Church Cathedral (see photos of the service ).  Full disclosure- I used to sing with this Choir many years ago when I still lived in Vancouver.  I still love the stillness and peace of this service as a visitor.  You don’t have to be religious to get something out of the peaceful, undemanding meditation it offers.

4. Spectacular Seacoast vistas

There are a range of beautiful seacoast vistas that can make us feel enchanted- especially when the surf is pounding and the wind is making you feel super-charged with kinetic energy. Some of my favourite seacoast destinations include: the Oregon Coast; Tofino, British Columbia; the stretch of Highway 101 that runs north from San Francisco; and Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, California
Glass Beach at Fort Bragg, California

5. A Daytime walk in the forest

There is something wonderful about walking in a beautiful forest, even when the weather is bad.  As someone with a dog in my life, I am often compelled to seek out these places in the rain, and am almost always the better for it.  To learn more about why forests make people feel so much better, see this previous post on forest bathing.

Finding enchantment in a new place opens up a realm of possibilities for travellers seeking authentic experiences, as well as a sense of personal renewal. This blog post has covered five that are accessible and powerful during winter time.  A future post will also explore spring and summer opportunities for enchantment.  I’m also eager to hear others’ experiences with enchanting places and events.



Urban Classical

In my teens and early twenties I was convinced I would become an opera singer.  Even after reality sank in and the melody of my career path changed, I remained a classical music fan.  This conditioning was no doubt strengthened by seeing too many Merchant Ivory films that matched vistas of pastoral countryside and intricately designed heritage buildings with soundscapes from Mozart, Bach and Beethoven.  And maybe, just maybe, Bugs Bunny had an influence in there somewhere.   Whatever the causes, I am inclined to want classical music whenever I encounter these landscapes.  If you also crave classical during trips with historic settings, read on for four ideas to access it, in places locals also frequent.

1.  Seek out major places of worship for secular concerts (i.e. -not associated with worship).

Often churches and other places of worship have a gorgeous accoustic-and they know it.  As a result, many  high-calibre professional and amateur groups will rent the space for Friday and /or Saturday night concerts.  Sometimes the church will even make this part of their community outreach agenda, like St. Martin-in-the Fields in London.  Connect with these events through local entertainment listings (e.g. Time Out Magazine), or the venue’s website.  An alternate approach is to google the city name plus the word “cathedrals” to get a list of prospective venues, and then visit the website for some of those cathedrals to see if it is posting any concert listings.  In many European cities, just walk by a few and, chances are, they’ll have a sandwich board advertising tonight’s (or an upcoming) concert.

2.  Check out local universities,  colleges, and conservatories  that have music programmes.

Many of us know the theory (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell) that you need 10,000 hours to become truly proficient. This is certainly true for musicians.  And so universities and conservatories do what they can to provide performance opportunities for their students,  knowing that performances require their own skill set.

By watching a student concert (usually but not always for a modest fee), you support the arts and get to hear some truly gifted young people perform.  Here again, the Internet is your friend, and you can access performance schedules just by searching for the music department page and looking for concert listings.  This is less of an option in Summer months, although depending on the city, there may still be some offerings on a more limited basis.

3.  Churches -music in that spiritual tradition.

Taking in a service can help you connect with the community you are visiting at a deeper level.  And some congregations even offer music-themed services.  For a few years when  I lived in Vancouver I sang in the Christ Church CathedralChoir.  I especially loved the Compline Service, now held at 8pm. It still happens every Sunday, January through November, consisting solely of prayers and (mostly) early music like Gregorian Chant .  Music Director Rupert Lang is an incredibly gifted Canadian-born, Cambridge-trained conductor.  This service is worth hearing, even if you aren’t Christian/ of that denomination.

4.  Music festivals -yes there are some focused on classical music.

Some ideas for finding these:

Find festivals through Bachtrack for classical music, opera, ballet and dance event reviews

Other ideas in North America:
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
St. Augustine’s in the Woods – Whidby Island Music Festival

Bannf BISC Festival

Carmel Bach Festival-July 15-29 in 2017

Whether you’re a died-in-the wool classical fan, or someone who just likes its atmospheric benefits, there are many ways to get a dose of it on your next trip, in settings that also appeal to locals.